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Wednesday, 8 April 2020

KOReader updates

KOReader recently released updates that enhance wireless options to manage the software. Below are two examples that previously required manual management from the user:
  • Wireless software updates are now easier to manage: It is possible to wirelessly search for software updates and then download any updates if available. 
  • Dictionaries in multiple languages can be downloaded via dictionary settings. Also included are dictionaries that translate words between languages.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Kobo Forma Vs.7.8-inches Android e-readers (2)

I previously posted on the different use-cases that justify choosing the Kobo Forma over Android e-readers. In this post, I’ll argue the opposite case for 7.8-inches e-readers. Below are some factors that might make Android e-readers a better choice:

Handling larger PDF files 

Kindle and Kobo e-readers run on weaker processors that are adequate for e-books. The Kobo Forma does render smaller to mid-sized PDF documents adequately, but there is a slow down with larger documents like graphic novels.

Most Android e-readers run on more powerful quad-core processors. Hence, even big PDF documents are smoothly rendered and navigated.

Android applications 

I don’t see a significant advantage in installing Android apps on an E-Ink device. Nevertheless, there are a small number of genuinely useful applications. For a list of helpful apps, click here.

Stylus input 

The need for powerful processing and stylus input are the two factors, in my view, that makes Android e-readers attractive to many users. Boyue and Onyx Boox have released 7.8-inches e-readers with stylus input support. The latest model available from Boyue is the Likebook Ares. Onyx also recently released the Onyx Boox Nova 2.

Stylus input is particularly useful when annotating scanned PDF documents. It also turns an e-reader into a digital notebook.

Larger storage & memory 

If you want the 32GB Kobo Forma, the cost jumps to £250. By default, Onyx and Boyue e-readers are configured with 32GB storage (the Likebook Mars has only 16GB storage but does allow further expansion via SD Card).

Regarding memory, the Kobo Forma has 512MB RAM. The Forma’s RAM is not an issue for reading one document. Nonetheless, this does not make the Forma ideal for multi-tasking and moving between applications (the software is also not designed to allow for moving between multiple documents). If you intend to open and navigate between multiple documents, then choosing an Android e-reader is the best option. Both software and hardware (2GB RAM) make Android e-readers versatile for multi-tasking. Onyx and Boyue e-readers, for example, allow the user to open multiple documents and move between them. It is also possible to multi-task between numerous opened applications.

While multi-tasking with Android e-readers is more advanced than the Kobo Forma, they shouldn't be compared to tablets. At most, the noted versatility relates to reading and working between e-books and PDF documents. I wouldn't even consider any e-reader suitable for browsing the internet (if you nonchalantly keep your browser's tabs open then stick to a smartphone or tablet!).

Syncing between devices 

The Kobo Forma recently supported Dropbox support to sync and then download personal e-books. The syncing, however, is restricted to accessing documents stored in the Dropbox cloud. It is not possible to sync inside a particular e-book (reading location and annotations). Further, there is no Dropbox integration in the Kobo application to access personal e-books on a tablet or smartphone.

In contrast, with Android e-readers, due to the possibility of installing third-party applications, there are workarounds to sync between multiple devices with the right app. For further information, click here.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Review of the Fire HD 10 (9th generation): Significant improvements but with a downgraded screen

The latest iteration of the Fire HD 10 (9th generation) is not that different than the previous generation. In this post, I’ll review the Fire HD 10 considering its improvements and if it, in comparison to other vendors, still offers value. I will split the review into three sections: (1) The latest generation’s improvements; (2) The drawbacks of the newest generation; (3) If the newest generation still offers value in comparison to what other vendors provide.

The improvements 

The 9th generation’s significant improvements can be summarised in two areas: battery life and performance. I previously posted about the previous generation’s over-heating and overall sub-par battery life (Amazon over-estimated the battery life). The latest generation has resolved both issues – battery life is substantially improved, and you don’t get the over-heating. I would say the estimated battery-life of ‘up to 12 hours’ is accurate.

Another issue with the previous generation was the battery’s drainage in standby mode. Again, Amazon resolved the problem with the latest generation, and you get vastly improved battery standby time (even when Alexa is enabled).

Amazon advertises a 30% performance boost in comparison to the previous generation. In real-world usage, the tablet does feel significantly smoother than the previous generation. However, the memory remains the same (2GB) so the tablet struggles, for example, when loading multiple browser tabs. 

The replacement of the Micro-USB with USB-C also provides faster charging and file transfer speeds.

The drawback 

Since adopting the budget strategy, to keep the price low, Amazon has balanced upgrades with downgrades with each Fire generation. The 9th generation Fire tablet keeps to this strategy with its downgraded screen. On paper, the latest generation has the same 1920 X 1200 IPS screen. However, the quality of the screen has been downgraded with muted colours and a weaker contrast. I’ve also noticed the screen has a yellow tint. The screen is still good, and the downgrade is worth it considering the upgrades provided.

Still good value? 

At £150 the Fire HD 10, in my view, isn’t the budget value choice anymore. Capable Android tablets have recently become cheaper, and it is possible to find better tablets at a similar price. For example, Android tablets at a comparable or slightly higher price include the Samsung Tab A 10.5, HUAWEI MediaPad T5, HUAWEI MediaPad M5 lite and Lenovo P10.

However, Amazon regularly discounts the Fire HD 10 between £90 – £110. At that price, the Fire HD 10, in comparison to other offerings, is well worth the price.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Kobo's latest software update resolves longstanding problems

The latest Kobo software update – software version 4.20.14601 – has resolved some longstanding problems. Before the update, there was a long-term problem with smoothness and preciseness when highlighting text. The latest firmware has remedied the issue, and highlighting is significantly smoother - it is now comparable to Amazon’s Kindle software. There are further performance improvements that include more fluid typing using the virtual keyboard (before the update entering text was slow and resulted in lag). I’ve also noticed WiFi connectivity, and syncing has improved. For example, you no longer get the looped refresh after syncing Dropbox cloud storage.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Kobo Forma Vs. Android e-readers

Is it better to choose the Kobo Forma or opt for one of Boyue or Onyx’s 7.8-inch e-readers? As with most technology, the answer depends on the user’s needs. Below I’ll list factors in which the Forma might be the better option and then, in another post, state when a Boyue or Onyx Boox e-reader might be the better choice.

Choosing the Kobo Forma

Better screen 

I’ve tested the Onyx Boox Nova and Likebook Mars and found the screens to be inferior in comparison to the Kobo Forma. The Likebook Muses – a note-taking e-reader – is the only Boyue e-reader that I found had a comparable screen to the Kobo Forma. Overall, if you want an e-reader, then you’ll get the best display with the Kobo Forma.

Better battery life

The Kobo Forma doesn’t have the biggest battery capacity compared to other e-readers but still has a better battery life in comparison to Android e-readers. Kobo has developed an operating system that is optimised for the Forma’s hardware. In contrast, Android is not designed for e-readers, and this affects battery life. Boyue and Onyx have developed their launchers, reading apps and added some battery saving options but without drastically changing the underlying problem that comes with not developing an operating system bottom-up to optimise performance and battery life.

Better e-book reading software 

If you want to read e-books, then Forma’s software is the better option. The software is intuitive and user-friendly. Onyx’s e-readers also have good e-reading software, but it takes time to discover its different features. Boyue software, on the other hand, is buggy and restrictive in ways that compromise functionality. While Kobo’s PDF support is weak, it is relatively easy to install KOReader as an alternative.

Ghosting 

Kobo’s software is developed and optimised for the device’s hardware. Accordingly, there aren’t ghosting problems that you get when using third-party Android applications on E-Ink devices.

Light and durable 

The Kobo Forma’s ergonomic slim design and Mobius screen make it light, durable and easy to hold. The Forma, despite its larger screen, weighs only 197 grams. In comparison, the Onyx Nova Pro weighs 275 grams, and the Likebook Ares weighs 268 grams.

Library books 

Kobo integrates library borrowing into the software. Thus, it is possible to borrow an e-book in the Libby app and then sync it to the Forma. To access borrowed e-books, on an Android e-reader, it is necessary to install the Libby application. The experience of using the Libby application on an e-Ink device, as it is designed for smartphones and tablets, is poor. Further, Libby’s native e-reader is not very good.

After-sale support 

Kobo, while not at the level of Amazon, is an established global vendor with greater reach. Consequently, its after-sale support is better than Boyue and Onyx. After-sale support is an important factor to consider when purchasing an e-reader. From experience, e-readers commonly have front-light and battery drainage problems.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Recommended Fire HD 10 accessories

In this post, I’ll provide accessories recommendations for the recently updated Fire HD 10 (a future post will be dedicated to reviewing the tablet). Below is a list of useful accessories:
  • Amazon’s 7th generation cover: Amazon’s latest generation cases are over-priced, but there is no disputing the quality of materials used. However, the good news is that the discounted previous generation’s case fits the 9th generation Fire HD 10 (it seems Amazon skipped a generation when releasing the new model as the 9th!). The older case is near identical to the updated one – the difference in the newer one is a logo change on the cover and different matching colours (strangely Amazon sells a sage case, but there is no version of the 9th generation tablet in that colour). Further, the case’s stand is useful when using the tablet in show mode. 
  • Amazon Basics 11" Felt Laptop Sleeve: I’ve tried different Amazon Basics products and found the budget cost doesn’t mean a compromise in usability. The 11-inches Amazon Basics sleeve is a good option for those not wanting to use a bulky case. 
  • TiMOVO back case: The Amazon’s Fire HD 10 7th generation case has both back and front protection. The case’s only down-side is that it adds significant weight when holding the tablet. The TiMOVO back case is lighter and protects the tablet from small drops. As the back case does not have a front cover, it is a good idea to use the Amazon Basics sleeve for front protection. 
  • Kitsound BoomBar+: The Amazon Fire HD 10 doesn’t have good speakers. Accordingly, if you want to use the tablet in show mode, to listen to the radio or play music, it is a good idea to connect to an external Bluetooth speaker. One cost-effective option is the Kitsound’s BoomBar+ - the BoomBar+’s battery lasts long and is available at a reasonable price.